Rural Virginia Schoolhouse on a Picturesque Creek


Snake Creek School | Carroll County, VA | c. 1907

Although sparsely populated today, Carroll County was even more remote in 1910 when farmer James F. Martin built a 13-room residence in a narrow valley bordering Snake Creek.

On this land just a few years earlier, the community had built this two-room school house (sometime before 1907). In 1916, it was incorporated into the county school system and James’ second wife, Nettie Martin, would teach at this school across from their home from 1939 until its closing in 1955 when it reverted to her ownership.

The view of Snake Creek from the school as it winds along a rolling pasture and beside the schoolhouse.
Mrs. Nettie Mae Largen

Mrs. Nettie Mar Largen: A Lasting Legacy

Nettie Mae Largen was born November 26, 1890. Through borrowing from her father, she finished high school and earned her teacher’s certificate at Radford State Teachers College. She was 18 years old when she taught her first school and she taught 19 schools before she was married. She also worked in an office for the Coal & Coke Company in West Virginia for a period of time.

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According to stories about her, Nettie seldom weighed more than 100 pounds, but she had endless energy. She always planted and tended a large garden. She loved to watch things grow. She could be found in her garden almost daily from the last frost until harvest. Any neighbor who stopped to chat often left with a bucket of green beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers. She managed to have garden products earlier than most of her neighbors. She would never spray insects in the garden. She had her own system of banging two Clorox bottles together, which caused the beetles to fall to the ground. The stubborn beetles would be picked by hand from the vine. She felt that spray mishandled could be harmful to one’s health.

The salary for teaching was low. From her first paycheck, Nettie bought a suit for her father. The cost was ten dollars. Nettie was thrifty, looking for ways to save. During World War II she took her entire paycheck, which was $100.00 monthly, in defense bonds.

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Nettie Martin lived almost a century as a teacher, farmer, and community leader. She always enjoyed reflecting on her past. She kept a sense of humor and pride and faith in young people.

She died at the age of 93 on May 1, 1983.

In 2010, the schoolhouse and Martin home were added to the National Historic Register.

Thank you to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for the history of this building and to for the memorial information on Nettie Martin.

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  1. We live very near this old school and have often wanted to learn more about it. We were fortunate when it was for sale to tour both the old school and the Martin home. The school house has been turned into a lovely home now.

  2. Enjoyed this story as it reminded me of the two room school I attended in Jackson County, TN. I don’t know when it was built but I do know that my dad, who was born in 1922, attended the same school. Sadly, it was torn down in the 1970’s. During my eight years there, I had three different teachers (due to retirement) and received a strong education and have many fond memories.

  3. Ms. Nettie was my aunt, my maternal grandfather’s sister. I visited her often. On Saturday’s she would visit my family in town. She would walk nearly a mile from my house to the business area so fast my young legs couldn’t keep up.
    In addition to teaching, she also took care of her special needs child. She kept almost everything from chewing gum wrapers to balls of strings and bonds in her attic. She would loan neighbors money when they needed it. I once saw her go to an unused coal burning stove, remove a shoe box , take out a handfull of money and give it to the man waiting on the porch. She was a mentor for me in so many ways. She always wore jewelry. She had given me a pair of gold earrings with amethyst settings. When I saw her body at the funeral home, there was no jewlery on her fingers or ears. I took off the earrings and put them on her. She went out of this world looking as beautiful as her memory left to us.

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